Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hurray for Shea Butter!

Embracing a raw lifestyle should be about more than what you eat.  Toxins creep into our lives and wreck havoc on our health through the chemicals that we surround us everday.   Although we can't control some of the environmental onslaught of modern society, we can choose alternative beauty products and household cleaners. The question continues to beg, "Why do we choose chemicals when readily available natural, safe alternatives exists?"  More on an exciting natural alternative later...........but here's a sneak preview:

Can You Guess What These Are?

For decades now we have been told that slathering chemical laden sunscreens onto our skin is critical for reducing the risk of skin cancer.  These recommendations are made by cosmetic companies and vocal dermatologist despite the lack of testing of the chemicals in sunscreen which include:
  • Benzophenones (dixoybenzone, oxybenzone)
  • PABA and PABA esters (ethyl dihydroxy propyl PAB,  glyceryl PABA, p-aminobenzoic acid, padimate-O or octyl dimethyl PABA)
  • Cinnamates (cinoxate, ethylhexyl p-methoxycinnamate, octocrylene, octyl methoxycinnamate) Salicylates (ethylhexyl salicylate, homosalate, octyl salicylate)
  • Digalloyl trioleate
  • Menthyl anthranilate
  • Avobenzone [butyl-methyoxydibenzoylmethane; Parsol 1789] - This is the only chemical sunscreen currently allowed by the European Community.
Since we have been "sold" by our government, the AMA, dermatologists, cosmetic companies and other interested parties that sunscreen is vital to reducing cancer risks let see how we are doing:
  • Worldwide, the greatest rise in melanoma has been experienced in countries where chemical sunscreens have been heavily promoted   (Garland, Cedric F., et al. Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk? American Journal of Public Health, Vol. 82, No. 4, April 1992, pp. 614-15).
  • Dr. Gordon Ainsleigh in California believes that the use of sunscreens causes more cancer deaths than it prevents. He estimates that the 17% increase in breast cancer observed between 1981 and 1992 may be the result of the pervasive use of sunscreens over the past decade (Ainsleigh, H. Gordon. Beneficial effects of sun exposure on cancer mortality. Preventive Medicine, Vol. 22, February 1993, pp. 132-40).
  • Recent studies have also shown a higher rate of melanoma among men who regularly use sunscreens and a higher rate of basal cell carcinoma among women using sunscreens (Garland, Cedric F. et al. Effect of sunscreens on UV radiation-induced enhancement of melanoma growth in mice. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Vol. 86, No. 10, May 18, 1994, pp. 798-801 :Larsen, H.R. "Sunscreens: do they cause skin cancer." International Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine, 1994; 12(12): 17-19; Farmer K.C. & Naylor, M.F. "Sun exposure, sunscreens, and skin cancer prevention: a year-round concern." Ann Pharmacother, 1996; 30(6):662-73)
  • Drs. Cedric and Frank Garland of the University of California have pointed out that while sunscreens do protect against sunburn, there is no scientific proof that they protect against melanoma or basal cell carcinoma in humans (Garland, C.F., et al. "Could sunscreens increase melanoma risk?" American Journal of Public Health, 1992; 82(4): 614-615.)
  • In February 1998, epidemiologist Marianne Berwick of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York presented a careful analysis of data which concluded, "We don't really know whether sunscreens prevent skin cancer," said Berwick. (Source: Science News, Vol. 153, No. 23, June 6, 1998, p. 360).
The other issue with sunscreen is that it blocks sun rays vital to the body's production of Vitamin D. If fact, Dr. Michael Holick (Boston University Medical Center) states that Vitamin D helps prevent a number of diseases including high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, some infectious diseases, and even cancer. “If you put a sunscreen on with a sun protection factor of 30, which is what they typically recommend, it reduces the ability to make vitamin d in your skin, by 95-99 percent. So if you’re always wearing sun protection all the time, and you’ve depended on sun for your vitamin d requirement, you’re at increased risk for vitamin d deficiency,” Dr. Holick says.

So what are we to do?  PURE, UNREFINED SHEA BUTTER!  Shea butter is harvested from the fruit of shea trees (typically grown in Africa).  In its pure state, shea butter contains skin soothing vitamins (E & F), minterals, and a unique fatty acid profile that is crucial to rejuvenating and moisturizing the skin.  This balance of vitamins, minerals and fatty acid also make shea butter an excellent natural sunscreen.

I wanted to put shea butter to the test as a sunscreen so yesterday I spent from 10am to 4pm outside gardening in full sun (spending only 1 hour in the shade for lunch).  As a blonde haired, blue eyed, fair skinned chick, I am the perfect candidate for a burn.  Much to my surprise, at the end of the day I had no signs of sunburn (I applied the shea butter at 8am and never reapplied).  Needless to say, I'm sold.

Here's some shea butter tips for you:

1. Make sure your product is raw and unrefined - if its white, it's refined.  If it is a chunky yellow mess, it's pure.

2. It's a little hard to apply out of the container so I took a glop and whipped it with a stand mixer.

3. If you don't care for the smell, add a few drops of essensial oils.

4.  I "melted" it by rubbing it in my hands and then applying. This made it go on smoothly.

Other cosmetic uses for shea include treating eczema and burns, pain relief from arthritis, muscle relaxation, fading dark spots, treating stretch markes, reducing wrinkles and blemishes, hair conditioning treatment, and diaper rash.